"Language"

Copied without permission from the Capital Press, February 8, 2008 in the column "The View From Here", by Bill Duncan, titled "Compression of language goes 2 far"

Writer Anna Quindlen is such an expert at using the English language that she can put a reader visually in the stories she writes. Some people have a gift for expression, and Anna Quindlen stands out as one of the best.

Therefore, I was surprised at a column in Newsweek magazine saying: "E-mails are letters, after all, more lasting than phone calls, even if many of them r 2 cursory 4 u." Translation: "are too cursory for you."

OK, maybe I am just an old stick-in-the-mud purist about the English language, but the cursory text talk is to me a sign of laziness, if not ignorance, of the beautiful mother tongue we call English. I spent several minutes recently trying to figure out the opening line of an email to me that read JTOU. I finally figured out that it meant "just thinking of you."

Either the person e-mailing me had too short of a memory span while thinking of me, or was just too plain rushed to spell out the greeting.

Life shouldn't be in such a rush that we have to use shorthand in our letters - e-mail, or even the kind I prefer, one delivered by the U.S. Post Office.

One wonders what some future historian is going to find while trying to decipher this generation's leavings. What the historian will probably find is a BBC. In text talk, that is "big bad challenge."

Asking for details, the researcher will probably get an AYSOS, translated as "are you stupid or something?" My answer would be AISB, or "as I said before," speak English.

It is just kid's talk, you think? One teacher told me it is no LM. That's "laughing matter." Cyber-lingo is showing up in "written" assignments in the classroom. One teacher said some of the submitted work looked more like an instant-message conversation than an English assignment.

If I were the teacher, I would return the work with IMHO (in my humble opinion), this paper gets an FFEUF (F for effort you flunk.)

but then, 1 would probably get a TH lawsuit from the student (translation, "textual harassment").

Believe it or not, there is a dictionary of abbreviated translations for text-based communications created for the generation that cut its teeth on e-mail, instant messaging, Internet chat rooms and now, all the rage, cell phone text messaging.

By my count there were more than 800 entries in the "dictionary," and the publisher said more chat abbreviations were being added daily. Webster is probably turning over in his grave.

I would not be surprised to pick up a book one day that begins with OUAT (once upon a time). Or maybe IWADASN (it was a dark and stormy night).

The cyber-lingo dictionary I saw made it plain that in this cyber world, parents and adult authority are not welcome. Many of the coded messages were about snooping parents:

A 9 means parent is watching. CD9: Parents are around. P911: Parents coming into room. PSOS: Parent standing over shoulder. PHZT: Parents have zero tolerance.

Mothers are apparently more vigilant on what is going on with text messaging than are darts, because the coded message SWMBO, meaning she who must be obeyed, signifies the I mother. Little wonder that mothers get so nosey when one of the coded messages is SNIFOC, standing naked in front of the computer. With camera cell phones that could be a concern.

The coding even extends to the workplace where BIOOTO means boss is out of the office, or a quick warning of BIB means the boss is back. In my day, a schoolmarm just whacked you across the knuckles for passing notes. And they were handwritten in plain English.

BDCBRBW to P.O. Box 812, Roseburg, OR 97470, but please write in English.


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